City Councillor opens debate over Middle East investment at The NEC

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The leader of Birmingham City Council eMike Whitby has appeared to float a kite that investment from Middle East sovereign wealth funds would be welcome at The NEC.Whitby was reported in The Times newspaper as saying: “We would allow them to be in partnership with our assets, including the ICC and National Exhibition Centre.”The list of assets, it is understood, could include the council’s 19 per cent stake in Birmingham International Airport.The news comes as Birmingham City Council looks to face up to deep public sector spending cuts. Whitby appeared later to row back from the comments, which The Times described as “a gaffe”.A council official later said: “It would not be true to say that assets are currently for sale or are being actively marketed. The analogy, however, is that if you have a nice car and somebody makes you a good offer, you might sell it”.NEC Group CEO, Paul Thandi, CEO, said in a statement: “As a healthy business, we continually examine all options for maximising our performance and economic impact in the future, such as joint venture partners where we can build and develop the Group further. Therefore at this time, it would be inappropriate to discuss any specific interests that The NEC Group may be pursuing until such time as they have been concluded and for this reason we do not have any further comment.”
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